Journal of the History of Biology

, Volume 40, Issue 1, pp 147–177 | Cite as

‘A Dispassionate and Objective Effort:’ Negotiating the First Study on the Biological Effects of Atomic Radiation

  • Jacob Darwin HamblinEmail author


The National Academy of Science’s 1956 study on the Biological Effects of Atomic Radiation (BEAR) was designed to provide an objective analysis to assess conflicting statements by leading geneticists and by officials in the Atomic Energy Commission. Largely because of its status as a detached, non-governmental evaluation by eminent scientists, no studies have had a broader impact on the development of biological thinking in regard to nuclear policies. This paper demonstrates that despite the first BEAR study’s reputation as an objective and independent study, it was the product of careful negotiation between Academy scientists, the Atomic Energy Commission, and Britain’s Medical Research Council. This paper also reveals the fragility of the consensus that produced the Academy’s report, the range of political uses of the report, and the subsequent disaffection of the scientists who took part in it.


Atomic Energy Commission BEAR Committee Detlev Bronk fallout genetics Harold Himsworth Medical Research Council National Academy of Sciences Nuclear Testing Warren Weaver 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of HistoryClemson UniversityClemsonUSA

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